When things go bad it's easy to slip into hyperbole to demonstrate your immense frustration. But when I ask if the Twins are now one of the worst defensively fundamental teams in Major League Baseball, I'm not sure I'm blowing anything out of proportion. The Minnesota front office chose to emphasize speed at second base and shortstop last winter, instead of defense, and given the personnel involved it's not really surprising that we've seen the results that we have.
Injuries have taken their toll, but then the issue becomes lack of depth. Last night the issue in the middle infield wasn't necessarily errors, although that's been an issue in the past, but the Twins were starting Michael Cuddyer at second base (again) and quadruple-A stalwart Matt Tolbert at shortstop. I agree that Cuddyer's bat needs to be in the lineup on a daily basis, but putting him at second is essentially the organization indicting itself on it's lack of vision.
Saturday night's game was hard to watch. Not because the starting pitcher was terrible, which we've gotten used to lately, because Carl Pavano was actually pretty damn good. He went eight full innings, and left the game with his team down just 2-1. Partially it was hard to watch because both Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan had a meltdown in the ninth with some help from (virtually) the entire Chciago batting order. But mostly it was hard to watch because the Twins had repeated chances to score and repeatedly blew those chances.
White Sox starter Zack Stewart, who was such an unknown quantity in this game that I incorrectly stated he'd made the first three starts of his career with the White Sox instead of the Blue Jays, was repeatedly bailed out by the Twins, who were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Let's talk about the moments where the Twins killed themselves offensively, and just ignore the two terrible defensive errors.
- After Cuddyer's first double, with two outs in the first, Jason Kubel strikes out.
- Delmon Young was thrown out leading off the fifth by trying to stretch a single into a double. He was thrown out by Juan Pierre.
- With Matt Tolbert on second and Drew Butera on first, both Denard Span and Joe Mauer grounded out to end the fifth.
- Jason Kubel only made it to third base on Jim Thome's double.
- Jim Thome couldn't score from second on Danny Valencia's RBI single into center.
- Delmon Young grounds into a double play to end the sixth.
- With Matt Tolbert on second with one out, Span and Mauer fail to get him home in the seventh.
- Cuddyer doubled to lead off the eighth, and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Down 2-1 with the tying run on third and nobody out, Kubel, Thome and Valencia recorded three consecutive outs without plating the run.
Not all of those things are mistakes. Holding Kubel and Thome at third were two good decisions. But having to hold them in a game like this made a huge difference in the outcome of the game, and just add to the frustration of a terrible game.
We'll leave it there for now. Hopefully the Twins can take the final game of the series today, if only so I can flip it over to the Chicago feed and listen to Hawk get depressed.